Newly minted Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says the federal government can ignore the Supreme Court's upcoming decision on marriage equality, no matter how it comes down.
"We have to understand how the Constitution works -- the president is required to carry out the laws of the land, the laws of the land come from the legislative branch," Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, told right-wing outlet Newsmax TV Tuesday, the day after he formally announced his presidential bid. "So if the legislative branch creates a law or changes a law, the executive branch has a responsibly to carry it out. It doesn't say they have the responsibility to carry out a judicial law."
The president is part of the executive branch, and it is made clear on that branch's website, WhiteHouse.gov, that Carson is incorrect. According to Article III of the Constitution, "Congress determines the jurisdiction of the federal courts. In some cases, however -- such as in the example of a dispute between two or more U.S. states -- the Constitution grants the Supreme Court original jurisdiction, an authority that cannot be stripped by Congress ... it is the final judicial arbiter in the United States on matters of federal law."
Congress can always write new laws and Constitutional amendments; the latter require ratification by state legislatures. If it disagrees with a judicial interpretation of the Constitution, Congress can create an amendment that renders the decision moot. The president, however, cannot just ignore court rulings.
This is not Carson's first step onto shaky constitutional ground. During a visit to Iowa in January, he proposed a solution to what Forbes called the "raft of recent rulings" by pesky federal judges striking down bans on same-sex marriage.
He told a radio host that Congress should simply fire any judge in the federal system whose rulings don't accord with the majority view. "So much for that whole independent, third branch of government thing our Founders felt was worth including in our Constitution," wrote Rick Ungar in Forbes.
In that January interview, Carson said marriage is "not a federal issue" and that for judges to overrule the results of state ballot referenda "is unconstitutional." He claimed, "Congress actually has the right to reprimand or remove them. Most people don't know that because they don't know the Constitution." In reality, a federal judge or justice can be removed only by impeachment, retirement, or death.
Ungar took Carson's claim to its logical conclusion: "If an independent jurist can be deemed to have committed a 'high crime or misdemeanor' because a majority in Congress disagrees with a ruling by that judge on the constitutionality of a state or federal statute, how is that possibly fulfilling the Constitution's requirement of an independent judiciary?"
You -- and Carson -- can read the full text of the Constitution here.
Watch Carson explain his understanding of the Constitution below, courtesy of Right Wing Watch.